HUDDERSFIELD’S MP last night stood by his disgraced friend David Chaytor.
The former Bury North MP was jailed for 18 months yesterday for fraudulently claiming more than £20,000 of expenses.
But Huddersfield’s Barry Sheerman told the Examiner his Labour colleague should not have been imprisoned.
“I don’t think this is an appropriate sentence,” said the veteran backbencher.
“I think a community service order would have done a lot more good because there would be no-one better to work with young people in the community.
“Sending him to prison is a waste of time and taxpayers’ money.”
Mr Sheerman believes Chaytor has been unfairly targeted following the MPs’ expenses scandal of 2009.
He said: “They are just trying to make an example of him and in this case the law is an ass.
“Justice hasn’t been done equally to all MPs who were identified as transgressing.”
Chaytor, 61, of Todmorden was sentenced to 18 months in prison at Southwark Crown Court in London yesterday.
Last month he pleaded guilty to three counts of fake accounting in connection with expenses claims made between 2005 and 2008, when he was Labour MP for Bury North.
The court heard:
Chaytor claimed £12,925 between 2005 and 2006 for renting a flat in Westminster, which he and his wife had bought outright in 2003. He produced a fake tenancy agreement purporting to show he was paying £1,175 a month in rent to a landlord, Sarah Elizabeth Rastrick, who was actually his daughter
He also claimed £5,425 between 2007 and 2008 for renting a home in Bury which was owned by his mother. Chaytor again produced a fake tenancy agreement, showing he was paying £775 a month
Chaytor also admitted he submitted two claims of £995 each in 2006 for IT support services which were never provided.
Prosecutors yesterday accused the disgraced politician of “siphoning off” public funds, while his defence solicitor claimed Chaytor was a “broken man” after his crimes came to light.
Mr Justice Saunders acknowledged public anger at the expenses scandal as he sentenced Chaytor to 18 months in jail.
The disgraced former MP has a long association with the Huddersfield area, having worked at the town’s then polytechnic – now the University of Huddersfield – in the early 1970s.
He represented Todmorden on Calderdale Council in the 1980s and stood for the Calder Valley seat in the 1987 and 1992 general elections, finishing second both times.
Mr Sheerman said: “I have known David since the 1980s when he was a very fine councillor on Calderdale Council.
“He was an active member of Parliament and an excellent member of my education select committee.
“David has given an enormous amount of support and money to charity and he’s planted trees on a whole hill-side near his home in Todmorden.”
Mr Sheerman added: “I last spoke to him over Christmas and he was showing great fortitude. I think he was looking forward to getting the sentencing over.
“We all have friends who make dreadful mistakes. I still support him – but I don’t condone what he’s done.”